Author: Paul O’ Driscoll, Director, Residence Hall Programs, Brandon University
“Sure I’ll contribute to the blog”. Back at the Western Region meeting in January (at the gorgeous Hotel Alma) it seemed such a long time till May 21st, surely I’d find an hour or so to think up a theme and begin writing. It was certainly not too much to ask, or at least it seemed not at the time.
So here it is: May 21st. It has been a hectic winter at our small university in western Manitoba, and even more hectic in the residence and conference area, and I’m scrambling to fulfil this commitment. Lately it seems that’s the way nearly everything gets completed: last minute, just under the wire. I wonder at times at what point quality begins to suffer.
At Brandon University we have a small residence, and a small conference business. With beds for up to 480, we are comfortable operating the residence office with a director (me), two clerical workers, a half-dozen residence assistants, and a few other part-time student workers. These same people also run the conference business, under my direction: a responsibility that I inherited when the conference manager retired in the mid 1990’s.
Our conference operation may seem small; however we can pack a powerful punch. While it’s true our average event is comprised of only about twenty or thirty people, we’ve hosted large events of up to 2200 participants (the Canada Games, twice), national conferences (National Lutheran Synod), prestigious sporting events (athletes village for World Youth Baseball , twice), prestigious national and international music competitions such as Egre (annually). We also serve our more local community by hosting such events as mini-university, volleyball and basketball events, and computer gaming competitions. Our meeting rooms do a thriving business, and our Main Dining Room has the best reputation in Brandon for formal events.
Running the residence business and the conference business out of one office has its advantages. Room use arguments between the residence director (me) and the conference manager (also me) are few, and lines of communication are short and direct. The conference business directly affects the residence operation’s bottom line, so my full-time and part-time residence office employees are motivated to run a successful conference season. While staff may not completely agree with the adage “a change is as good as a rest”, most would probably agree that they welcome the variety of work and the change from routine that comes with the conference season.
Despite the difference in size between our conference business and that of most other institutions, CUCCOA is the single most important external resource available to me in managing our conference office. I enjoy and benefit from every CUCCOA national conference and regional meeting I attend, the list-serve utility is invaluable, and most of all the relationships that form between conference professionals remind me that I’m not in this business alone, that others face similar challenges, and the work we do adds value to our customers and our respective institutions.
Paul O’Driscoll, Director, Residence Hall Programs, Brandon University